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The excited chatter of the 1500 guests and devotees crowd faded as the lights dimmed. The event began with the captivating video: ‘A Tale of Two Boys’ depicting the remarkable lives, visions, and achievements of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Dr. Kalam. The video concluded  with Dr. Kalam lovingly reading an excerpt from ‘Transcendence’ to Swamishri.

The first speech by Professor Arun Tiwari certainly enraptured the hearts and minds of the audience through his memories of Swamishri and Dr. Kalam, social commentary on the use of technology and his message of the necessity to spread compassion. He concluded, “We must work together to realize the dream of Dr. Kalam in the land of Mandela through the guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”

Then, Pujya Brahmavihari Swami enthralled the audience with his humorous and relatable speech. He said that though Dr. Kalam, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi are no longer on earth, their presence is felt more acutely as time passes. Since, it is through good deeds – and even thoughts of them – that a person can change the world.

He added that it was through Dr. Kalam asking questions and Swamishri answering them that Dr. Kalam could reconcile science and spirituality and form a “cosmic friendship” with Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

He commented that the essence of the book is that Dr. Kalam “transcends” the confines of one-sided thinking; though he was a devout Muslim, he found a Hindu saint to be his greatest spiritual teacher, and though he dedicated his life to science, he understood the need for spirituality. So, both intellect and spirituality are necessary – neither must be in excess. This balance results in the stability of the mind and peace with oneself.

Thereafter, videos summarizing Dr. Kalam’s interactions with Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the inspirations he received from him and his vision for the world were shown on the LED screen.

Then, the saints and the main guests were introduced and called onto stage. The dignitaries were: Professor Arun Tiwari – co-author of ‘Transcendence’; Professor Firoz Cachalia – Professor at Law (representing Mr. Pravin Gordhan – South Africa’s Minister of Finance); Mr. Tshediso Matona – Super Director General in the Ministry of the Presidency; Mr. Omie Singh – Member of Parliament of South Africa; Mr. Ismail Vadi – MEC for Roads and Transport in Gauteng; Mr. Randhir Kumar Jaiswal – Consul General of India in Johannesburg, South Africa; Mr. Isu Chiba – struggle hero of the Apartheid era; Mr. Xolani Mkhwanazi – Chairman of B.H.P. Billiton; Mr. Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan – CEO of Anglo-Gold Ashanti and Mr. Ramachandran Ottapathu – CEO of Choppies Group.

Following this, the hall darkened. Music filled the hall and the screen lit up with animations of swirling orbs of flowers and lamps appearing against an inky blue sky. A group of children filed onto the stage, chanting Vedic mantras. The experience was awe-inspiring: the powerful chanting coursed through the hall as the children sat devoutly in front of Swamishri’s murti. Once the mantras had ended, the children proceeded off stage two by two and then paraded onto stage again, from either wing. This time, each kneeled before a dignitary to respectfully and humbly present him with a copy of the book on a polished silver tray. The display was moving as it was humble, yet grand and symbolic.

The guest speakers followed: Mr. Ramachandran Ottapathu, Mr. Ismail Vadi, Mr. Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and Professor Firoz Cachalia (who also spoke on the behalf of Mr. Pravin Gordhan).

Mr. Ottapthu’s speech focused on the importance of spirituality – the “sixth principle” which Swamishri gently instructed Dr. Kalam to implement in his plan to take India forward. Mr. Ismail Vadi spoke of the importance of the “two most enlightened souls of our time”. He was very impressed with the book as a “scientific, socio-political and spiritual” journey that is enriched with the views of many great people throughout history. Mr. Vadi went on to explain how important the values and conduct shown through ‘Transcendence’ is for today’s leaders.

What stood out in ‘Transcendence’ for Mr. Jaiswal was the union of supposedly different worlds: science meets spirituality; humanity meets God – regardless of religion. He celebrated the “multi-culturalism” of India. Professor Cachlia spoke of how Dr. Kalam was a “man who deeply embodied the values of religious and intellectual tolerance”.

The program concluded with singing of the South African and Indian national anthems with pride. The atmosphere was light, happy and inspired after a wonderful, well-organized and meticulously presented event.

Mr. Isu Chiba, ANC (South African Political Party) stalwart and fellow prisoner with Mr. Nelson Mandela on Robben Island for 18 years, said, “The launch of the book is particularly timely. A time when it seems the leaders in many parts of the world are actually failing their people. This book, I think brings back hope. It inspires people to see things differently and instills a value-based leadership program. The book is spot on.” And later, in personal conversation, he mentioned, “After 18 years in jail, fighting for freedom… tonight I really felt liberated. The evening was truly uplifting and elevating.”

Mr. Ismail Cajee (nephew of the famous anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol) said, “I was rather reluctant to sit through the evening, but a divine intervention occurred this evening. This program helped me find peace and foreclosure after 45 years of strife, struggle, stress and setbacks to find justice for my late uncle, Ahmed Timol.”

As people left and walked back to their cars, they looked at the stars – seeing both the wonder of science and the warmth of faith in their glimmers.

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